62. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Mr. Eagleton, EUR/SE, (notetaker)
  • Ambassador Alexandrakis
  • Mr. Loukas Tsilis

Secretary: It is always a pleasure to see someone who controls more votes in the Congress than I do. (laughter)

Alexandrakis: I am always impressed by your speeches.

Secretary: With the friendship of Greece my career will be complete. But frankly, all of my life has been more associated with Greece than with Turkey. It was our strategy during the first week of the Cyprus crisis to protect Greece. Everyone wanted me to condemn Greece but I thought that to do so would only encourage the Turks. In the second round there was entirely too much confusion. We were going through a Presidential transition. Callaghan was getting emotional. Mavros was no help, if you don’t mind my saying so. We really had no great strategy, we lost control of events.

Sisco: We have often discussed this. I believe if we had been more involved at Geneva the outcome might have been different.

Secretary: The fact is that the Turkish proposal at Geneva2 you would accept now, but if we had pressed it at that time it would have produced anti-American riots in Athens. Were it not for the Presidential crisis at that time we might have been able to do more.

Alexandrakis: Yes, I have a message from Foreign Minister Bitsios (hands the Secretary a letter (attached) which he reads).3

Secretary: What are your oral remarks?

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Alexandrakis: We are faced with Turkish expansion and aggression, statements by Turkish officials are there to prove it. Turkey will be carrying out petroleum research in the Aegean in May and Greece will have to take counter-action. Vice President Turkes said recently that all islands within 50 kilometers should be Turkish.

On a personal basis I would like to make some additional comments. I would ask for your attention in this delicate situation to make something clear. It is my duty to call your attention to the danger of a lack of US understanding of our views on these issues. This is not a threat, but there are developments that ensue that would be unfortunate.

Secretary: Do you mean inside Greece?

Alexandrakis: Inside Greece and in the area.

Secretary: I have difficulty evaluating what you are saying. We have made clear that we were negotiating with Turkey. We have explained that the agreement provides a level comparable, or a little above, what we have always given Turkey—the same level considering inflation. This has been presented in a manner that allows Turkey to present this to its people. The ExIm Bank loans also are similar to those of recent years. I cannot accept the proposition that this constitutes anything new. Delivery of major military items will mostly be in the period 1978–79, so this cannot affect the immediate situation.

As for provocative acts by Turkey against Greece, we would strongly oppose this. If you mean military force we would oppose it and support you against it.

As for provision for a Greek agreement, this should be comparable. I have not studied this, but we want to strengthen Greece and the present Government of Greece. We cannot change the fact that our affection is unrequited. Really this has been a tragedy. You have been a chief actor in using pressure to get us to do things. Normally when a foreign government comes to us as a friend we don’t fail it.

In Cyprus the objective is to get back territory. There are two ways to do this. You chose Congress’ way. We had our own way. We want the friendship and cooperation of Greece and are prepared to show great friendship and cooperation ourselves. You should have a comparable agreement. You can assure your minister that we will make every effort to respond to your needs.

Alexandrakis: There are two things: Aid and security. A Turkish agreement will enhance Turkey’s aggression.

Secretary: We made it clear to the Turks that our relationship will depend on progress on Cyprus. Furthermore, we have to get appropriations from Congress every year. Congress will not be receptive if there is any Turkish aggression. It has been our assumption that Cyprus will be settled. We will do our utmost to promote this.

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Alexandrakis: I don’t really have any control over the Greek-Americans.

Secretary: Mr. Ambassador, your Israeli colleague tells me he has no control.

Alexandrakis: We don’t have such control as they have.

Secretary: Some of your people are influenced from the Cypriots. I genuinely believe that if two things had not happened, if Ecevit had not resigned and the Congress had not passed the embargo, we would have settled Cyprus in early 1975. It is not right for the Greeks and Americans to be estranged.

Alexandrakis: I agree, we suffer from this.

Secretary: I never joined the harassment of your previous government. I was neutral; but now I have great admiration for your prime minister—and your foreign minister. We should try to calm the situation. As for provocative Turkish military action, we will oppose it.

Alexandrakis: A public statement would be helpful.

Secretary: Can we do this?

Sisco: Perhaps we can when we go to the Congress with the Turkish Agreement.

Secretary: Let’s see about this. We could say that we want things settled peacefully and would oppose any military action. Let’s try a formula such as “assistance to Turkey is for NATO defense.” Of course this is in the agreement.

Alexandrakis: Yes, this is nothing new.

Secretary: Then we could say we would oppose a military move against a NATO ally.

Alexandrakis: You were kind to say you envisage a similar agreement for Greece. If this could be said publicly—

Secretary: Why don’t you get instructions to this effect and we will let you know what we can say by Friday.4

Alexandrakis: If you could say it would be the same level.

Secretary: We can’t say that, but we can say that we are prepared in principle to make a multi-year agreement with Greece.

I want you to know I understand your domestic problems. We feel Caramanlis should be strong domestically. We should be able to say we are making a multi-year agreement with you. Tell Bitsios I think of him with great respect.

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Alexandrakis: I know he feels the same way.

Secretary: We will do our utmost to be helpful.

(On the way to the door)

Secretary: There was really nothing in the agreement that should cause you problems. In it the Turks encompass a number of things we had been discussing with them for some time. The planes will not arrive until 1978–79.

Alexandrakis: Caglayangil said there would be F–4’s in the interim.

Secretary: Yes, there will be 14 F–4’s over a period of 15 months.

Alexandrakis: What about the ships?

Secretary: There will be a thirty year old destroyer and two old submarines.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 275, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eagleton and approved in S on July 13. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Reference is to the Turkish proposal for an autonomous Turkish Cypriot administration. See Document 126.
  3. In the March 31 letter, attached but not printed, Bitsios characterized the U.S. decision for restoring a defense cooperation agreement with Turkey as “massive military aid to the wrongdoer,” not because Greece opposed a U.S.-Turkish agreement to consolidate allied defense but because the particulars of the agreement would weaken that defense. Any aid to Turkey would push two NATO allies closer to the brink of disaster. Greece viewed the current situation as a failure of the Greek decision to exercise moderation in negotiation while enabling Turkey to gain a military advantage over Greece.
  4. During the noon briefing on April 2, Kissinger remarked: “Greece will, of course, continue to be able to obtain military equipment from the United States during the period of the proposed agreement with Turkey.” (Telegram 080223 to Athens, April 2; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1976)